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Sunday, February 14, 2010

FANNIE FLAGG'S A REDBIRD CHRISTMAS



I remember when Fannie Flagg was a stand-up comedian—a flaming red head with a thick southern drawl and a passel of funny jokes. Then came Flagg’s novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop CafĂ© and the hit movie version. Flagg’s talents also lay in writing. I thoroughly enjoyed another Fannie Flagg novel, Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven with its upbeat outlook on life (http://thirdagetraveler.blogspot.com/2006/12/cant-wait-to-get-to-heaven-hellava-book.html), so when I spotted A Redbird Christmas, the bookstore racked up another sale.

Fannie Flagg’s A Redbird Christmas is a wonderful feel-good book. It is filled with her signature quirky characters living in a small-town southern setting. She skillfully describes Lost River bringing the reader right into this out of the way community. Before long I knew its history and its inhabitants. They have real longings and real problems. They may be idiosyncratic, but I became involved with them and wanted to find out what happens to them. Flagg involves her readers, and her books are the curl-up-and-read-in-one-sitting kind.

Her main character, Oswald T. Campbell is a sympathy-invoking soul alone in Chicago’s wintery cold and snow when he receives a sad diagnosis from his doctor. He is dying, and in order to extend his life as long as possible, he must leave the Chicago climate in favor of someplace warm. Through a peculiar turn of events, including his seriously short supply of money, Oswald ends up in Lost River where, although be tries to avoid it, he cannot avoid becoming part of the community. In a small town where there is a real shortage of eligible bachelors and an abundance of single ladies, Oswald is drawn into the social life. He soon meets the central figure in this tale, a redbird named Jack, owned by Roy, the local grocer. Jack somehow draws the community closer and affects many of Lost River’s inhabitants, including Oswald.

One wonders whether life is filled with a series of coincidences that twist and turn us until we find our destinies. That is a question Flagg often raises in her books. Whether you believe in these convenient coincidences or not, you can’t help but come away with the feeling that going through life with one’s eyes open to new possibilities cannot help but make new possibilities appear. That’s a very positive message. I believe it’s true.

A Redbird Christmas is charming. I read it with a smile. I read it right after the Christmas season, and I suppose it might be described as a Christmas tale. But Fannie Flagg’s book, a New York Times bestseller, will charm a reader regardless of season.

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